By Claire West
With almost 70 graduates competing for every job going and with graduate unemployment at a 17-year high, the University of Warwick, in association with Capp (Centre for Applied Positive Psychology) have made a stand in a bid to make graduates more employable and to train them for the jobs of the future.
"'Graduateness' is a principal which we thoroughly believe in," said Anne Wilson, Head of Careers at the University of Warwick. "We want to develop and prepare our students, so by the time they are ready for the world of work, they have gained a broad academic knowledge, life skills and an understanding of their personal strengths so they are well-equipped and ready for jobs of the future."
"Working with CAPP, we are able to add an additional dimension to our discussions with students by exploring students' strengths as well as skills, values and motivations.
"In graduate and internship interviews students can display a real sense of energy and engagement and be able to demonstrate a high level of performance, so are more likely to obtain the job of their dreams. It ensures that our students do more of what they are good at rather than what they are capable of doing," added Anne.
Emma Trenier, Consulting Psychologist at Capp, said: "Strengths are the things we love doing and do best. As part of our work with the University of Warwick, we analysed individuals' backgrounds and looked at their influencers and successes, linked this to their academic knowledge and mapped their strengths. This helped to encourage, motivate and inspire students to make their own choices, allowing them to independently shape a successful long-term career path."
"Of course, we know that times are hard and graduates are having to take work which they don't necessarily want to do - but we would advise them to still put in the groundwork. Graduates still need to convey and articulate their strengths in order to get the role," added Emma.
Since 2005, Capp has advocated the benefits of strengths based recruitment and has worked with high-profile clients, including Ernst & Young and Aviva in shaping their recruitment and selection processes.
Stephen Isherwood, Graduate Recruitment Manager, Ernst & Young said: "The strengths-based approach is designed to get the heart of a candidate and so enables us to recruit the right candidates to roles that will enable them to achieve their potential."
In December 2009, supported by Ernst & Young, the University of Warwick and Capp ran a pilot project aiming to see if strengths identification and analysis would make a difference to graduates.
Eighty per cent of students who took part said they felt more confident in describing their strengths in an interview or on their CV, 70% said they could articulate their strengths to a recruiter and 70% added they had increased confidence during interviews.
One Strengths workshop participant said: "The workshop helped me to feel more confident in continuing study at a higher level particularly as two of my key strengths were pride and persistence and my love of writing. The most enlightening aspect was the realisation than my unrealised strengths of wanting to leave a legacy and to be of service to people can also be fulfilled through the PhD as I am hoping to influence policy and mobilise action."
The University of Warwick Student Careers and Skills department has trained 11 of its staff as strengths advisors and now offers strengths analyses to students across the University.